The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know

Rating: ★★★ · ·

A brief synopsis of the Twilight Sad has some ups and downs.  They burst onto the scene with the explosive Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, filled with squalling guitars and blissful pop.  But, then they took an odd side-step with Forget the Night Ahead, which was a more straightforward approach.  Now, officially three albums into their career with No One Can Ever Know, the band is still treading the darker side of humanity, just with much more polished edges and electronic flourishes.

James Graham’s vocals have always been a vital part of the Twilight Sad, and it takes the lead on opener “Alphabet.”  More important, however, is that the guitars work that made the band such a bombastic group is now being replaced by shades of electronics, at least in the foreground of this track.  You can’t claim that this is a poor track, but the absence of the dynamics that flourished early in the band’s career really aren’t present on No One Can Ever Know. Still, with Graham’s prowess, it’s hard to dislike anything the band puts together.  “Sick” almost feels like it’s utilizing some of the electronic playfulness we found on Kid A or Amnesiac, combining grooves, beats and strengthened vocals. Just one listen to the chorus and you’ll surely find yourself fawning over this number.

Even though it’s easy to see the differences from album one to album three, the band’s not completely lacking energy on this effort.  In “Another Bed” you’ll find a pulsating rhythm brooding beneath the number, and melded with further electronic swaths that cut through the track.  Similarly, “Don’t Move” uses the same stylistic accompaniment, although the pounding of the drums definitely provides hints of a darker force just waiting to explode on No One Can Ever Know.  Yet, there’s something amiss, even as you see the band is aided by their craftsmanship. The whole of the record feels really sterile, and lacking a bit of passion, which drew me to the band long ago.  “Kill It in the Morning” is perhaps the only track of the collection that really sees Graham pushing himself, and it doesn’t arrive until the end.  But, you should definitely give it a listen as there’s hints of Trent Reznor in the production of the song; the ending where it drops off and you get Graham again is also a special moment.  You just get the feeling that the band is capable of so much more.

For what it’s worth, No One Can Ever Know is an enjoyable listen, and one that brand new fans will surely appreciate.  But, followers of The Twilight Sad might be a bit disheartened by the listen, as the group still seems like they’re trying to find their footing in the current musical landscape.  I appreciate the dark quality musically and lyrically, but it’s placed too simply, lacking much of the force you know the band is capable of producing.  Perhaps this is just a stepping stone to greater ambitions, and only time will tell. For now, we can be pleased, just not blown away.

Show Review: The Twilight Sad @ Emos (6/11)

If ever a show served as a reminder of why aged men (such as myself) should wear headphones, then this was precisely the set of bands that would help me come back to this obvious realization.  Glasgow’s The Twilight Sad would bring their swirling sonic blast of guitar pop to Austin, and opening up was local act Calm Blue Sea. Follow the jump for the full show review and some hot photos.
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2009 Top 50 Albums

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Creating a Top 50 Albums list is never easy.  You have to battle with what you think the world believes, and what you truly believe in your heart, to be solid jams.  We have even more trouble because we have to three writers, all who have different ideas, and we have to make those ideas fit into a neat box.  Well, we got it done, and honestly, our criteria was based on two things: how great we thought the album was, artistically speaking, and how long we listened to it without getting bored.  That’s it. It’s fool proof; you might not like it, but it’s our list, so here it is… Read more

The Twilight Sad – Forget the Night Ahead

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

From the depths of the Glasgow music scene burst forth another band in 2003.  Since then, The Twilight Sad have slowly been building up a reputation for their melodic rock meets shoegaze, creating beauty surrounded by squalling guitars.  Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters won over many critics, and the world was eager to see if Forget the Night Ahead could keep the band riding the wave of popularity into the hearts and ears of everyone.

As “Reflection of the Television” opens the album up, you can see the screaming feedback you can see that the band still has some of their traditional elements in place.  But, you will also notice that those elements no longer live in the foreground of the song, as they did on previous efforts.  Singer James Graham now has his vocals standing before you for all to see, and while it dramatically changes the aesthetics of the release, you still catch onto the power of music.

“I Became a Prostitute” is the band’s first single off this album, and you can see that it definitely has a presence that can rise above the indie status. Like Glasvegas, it’s a grandiose number full of wave upon wave of guitars accompanied by Graham’s vocals, which just so happen to crash atop the song as well during the chorus.  All in all, it’s a softer approach to writing than the group took in the past, but for most listeners, you will find that it’s equally as effective.

Fortunately for us, this album is longer than their previous affairs, despite the fact that each song reaches well beyond the mark of 3 minutes, with most running near the five minute mark. However, the dynamics of the atmospheric guitar flourishes combined with Graham’s new vocal presence do make some of the songs blend into one another, making it hard to differentiate between the album’s best numbers.  Don’t take this to mean that there aren’t standout tracks in abundance.

“That Birthday Present” is a clever song, with the majority of the tune relishing in the bouncy guitar work.  All this comes to light even though this also happens to be one of the noisier songs on the record.  The Twilight Sad at this point seem sort of like a cross between M83 and Mogwai, except they rely upon a more traditional songwriting structure.  It allows their songs to breathe, instead of wallowing before they fade into obscurity like other bands that implement noise attacks.

“Floorboards Under the Bed” is different than most tunes you’ll find in the groups catalogue.  It seems to wear the influence of tour-mates Frightened Rabbit, but then it fades into a piece of tinkering flare.  Albeit an interesting opening, the song quickly disappears into the back of your mind.  All the build up will lead you into the final three tracks.  Of the final three, “The Neighbours Can’t Breathe” is the stand out, although the closer, “At the Burnside,” has an emotional appeal, with a hint of Glaswegian balladry wrapping it all up.

This album has some really beautiful moments, more than way out the few weak points.  The Twilight Sad are able to build upon their own sound, pushing the shoegazing into the realm of a more pop-centric world, and Forget the Night Ahead wins because of its ability to step into these new realms, encouraging the band to become more than just another stagnant noise-rock act.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/reflection-of-the-television-1.mp3]

Download: The Twilight Sad – Reflection of the Television [MP3]